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Myth: Legalization of Marijuana in Other Countries Has Been a Success

Reality: Liberalization Often Results in Higher Use of Dangerous Drugs

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Updated September 21, 2013

Over the past decade, drug policy in some foreign countries, particularly those in Europe, has gone through some dramatic changes toward greater liberalization with failed results. Consider the experience of the Netherlands, where the government reconsidered its legalization measures in light of that country's experience.

After marijuana use became legal, consumption nearly tripled among 18- to 20-year-olds. As awareness of the harm of marijuana grew, the number of cannabis coffeehouses in the Netherlands decreased 36 percent in six years.

Almost all Dutch towns have a cannabis policy, and 73 percent of them have a no-tolerance policy toward the coffeehouses.

In 1987 Swiss officials permitted drug use and sales in a Zurich park, which was soon dubbed Needle Park, and Switzerland became a magnet for drug users the world over. Within five years, the number of regular drug users at the park had reportedly swelled from a few hundred to 20,000.

The area around the park became crime-ridden to the point that the park had to be shut down and the experiment terminated.

Smoking Rates Increased Among Teens

Marijuana use by Canadian teenagers is at a 25-year peak in the wake of an aggressive decriminalization movement. At the very time a decriminalization bill was before the House of Commons, the Canadian government released a report showing that marijuana smoking among teens is "at levels that we haven't seen since the late '70s when rates reached their peak."

After a large decline in the 1980s, marijuana use among teens increased during the 1990s, as young people apparently became "confused about the state of federal pot laws."

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